After a dry spell in story-heavy Star Wars games, Respawn finally brought us this Metroidvania.
After the demise of LucasArts, Electronic Arts exclusively received the star–warslicense, but then only released multiplayer titles for a while – I seem to remember that there was a change at the top and the new boss had no interest in licensed games at all. Ultimately, however, EA decided that a Star Wars game should be made from a title in development at partner company Respawn Entertainment; In 2019, for example, a 3D action-adventure – more precisely a so-called Metroidvania with Soulslike features – was released Jedi – Fallen Order.
Like pretty much all recent Star Wars stories, it is considered canon and officially par with the original films. The surprise was that the game doesn’t offer any microtransactions, although there were cosmetic extras for pre-orders. My article is based on the Playstation 4 version; the game was also released for X-Box One (i.e. the third) and Windows (download only via Origin). In the meantime it has also been ported to Stadia, Playstation 5 and X-Box Series X (i.e. the fourth).
Five years after the victory of the Sith and the fall of the Jedi, a certain young Cal Kestis works in a shipbreaking yard until the Inquisition catches up with him. However, another former Jedi, Cere Junda, is able to save him. Cere herself no longer uses the power, but still hopes to be able to rebuild the order. She convinces Cal to join her and search for information left by her old master. However, they are encrypted and the young Jedi must first prove himself by re-enacting a voyage of discovery by the archeology geek. Among other things, it is important to explore a lost civilization and track down the Wookiee chief Tarfful, who is of course also at enmity with the Empire (and who, by the way, is not the only familiar face for Star Wars fans). But Cal must also rebuild his connection to the Force and fend off two Inquisitors relentlessly pursuing his group…
Escape from the minions of the Sith
The game begins as a 3D linear platformer. In a prologue that should have been shorter, we run, jump and climb to overcome abysses and eventually find our way to the goal. Then the stormtroopers show up, so there’s fighting. It’s kind of Soulslike, but don’t worry, we’re laudably allowed to choose between four difficulty levels and switch at any time. With optional targeting, block or dodge enemy attacks with your lightsaber and retaliate at the right moment; sometimes villains and beasts are even disoriented by successful parries. As the game progresses, Cal will gradually learn additional attacks and Force powers – allowing him to significantly slow down opponents for a short time or push them away telekinetically. Certain objects as well, which is occasionally necessary for skill tasks.
In combat, however, Cal only has limited Force energy at his disposal, which is then refilled by successful hits. He also soon gets a companion, the little droid BD-1 (not to be confused with BT-1), who can use Stims to regenerate his life energy, but only on request and with limited supply. Every now and then we find a meditation point and can save our game there, heal ourselves completely and refill the Stim supplies, which also lets the opponents respawn.
|Cal won’t be able to get to solid ground with the rope alone, so better wall run.|
RPG-wise, Cal gains more and more experience by defeating enemies. We can use them to buy new skills along a branching tree. This includes additional combat techniques, but also passive advantages that improve his power abilities or let him benefit more from Stims.
Now, young Kestis, you will search everything
Once we’ve made it into the main part, we finally get to the third major aspect of the game: exploration. BD-1 provides us with maps, and that’s a good thing, because we can still keep track of things in the large three-dimensional areas. In concrete terms, we are shown where we have not yet been, where we can make progress with our current strength and where we can only do this later; Unfortunately, there are always niches that are not marked on the map. Puzzles are rare but there are – for the more difficult ones, we can ask our droid if he can think of anything. But whether his answer is actually of any use is another question.
The adventure takes place mainly on four different worlds, which doesn’t sound like much, but the areas you can walk through are all the bigger. The first time we only explore a more or less large part and can always open shortcuts for later, at some point we return in the course of the story and enter other areas. But also by acquiring additional powers and upgrades, new paths can become available, which then lead to optional collectibles. These are mainly cosmetic options (like Cal’s outfit or his lightsaber), as well as background information (Cal can read so-called force echoes) combined with experience bonuses, and every now and then there is an extension of our life or force energy.
|The holomap shows us where to go. If only she were perfect now.|
So in chasing all those buffs, database entries, and other percentage points, we have cards – and they’re proving useful, but less than they could be. As I said, many paths that have not yet been taken are highlighted, but not all of them – the actual missing parts of the map are completely hidden, as are the actual goals. We can only go into the rough region that is still marked as incomplete and hope that we will discover the missing niches, chests and secrets by ourselves. Missed Force Echoes? Too bad there are no references at all.
Oh, and the maps are consistently presented as projections from BD-1. In practice this means: In certain situations we can’t call them, usually we can, but then hopefully there are no opponents nearby because the game isn’t paused.
The space fantasy atmosphere
The game relies on an almost realistic graphic style, as far as I understand motion capture was used. As usual, the background music is stylistically based on the film music by John Williams, although I only noticed two pieces that were taken directly from there. The characters are fully dubbed, also in German, and have quite a lot of conversations that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the plot. The already known characters mostly have their standard German voices; one of the new ones, Cere Junda, irritates at the latest when she talks about the witches of Dathomir, because you thought she had to have the same voice actress as Asajj Ventress.
If you’re up for a story-heavy and generally atmospheric Star Wars game, Fallen Order is the place for you – provided you don’t mind 3D hopping, large worlds to explore with useful but unfortunately limited maps, and a challenging combat system , which at least lets us choose between four levels of difficulty. The first part of Respawn’s Jedi series is not perfect, but definitely recommendable.
|You won’t be hounded by Stormtroopers and Eradication Troops all the time. Flora and fauna, among other things, are also after you.|